Who knew that fake pets can be good for your health?

Fedco Seeds is selling chia as a new seed variety for 2015, calling it “a new pet for your garden and diet.”

Chia seeds are not new, of course. They’ve been advertised for decades as a children’s and/or joke gift, available at drug, hardware and discount stores everywhere – chia pets.

Chia seeds also are a health food, high in essential fatty acids, regulating sugar and removing toxins, eaten for generations in Mexico and Central America, where they are native.

Fedco recommends starting the seeds indoors and transplanting them outside after all danger of frost is past. Even doing that, because the chia prefers flowering in short day conditions (that is, closer to the Equator), when it is grown in Maine it might not have enough time to produce the seeds before the first frost kills the plant.

The seeds are the part of the plant with the most health benefits, but chia leaves – either fresh or dried – make a healthful tea, and can be fed to animals.

For eating, wait for the garden seed variety. But if you are desperate to plant something now, buy the Chia Pet – although I’d avoid the Duck Dynasty chia and probably get the Bigfoot or the Scooby Doo. You might even be able to find “vintage” chia pets at Goodwill.